Ultraviolet spectra of extreme nearby star-forming regions: Evidence for an overabundance of very massive stars

Peter Senchyna, Daniel P. Stark, Stéphane Charlot, Jacopo Chevallard, Gustavo Bruzual, Alba Vidal-Garciá

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


As deep spectroscopic campaigns extend to higher redshifts and lower stellar masses, the interpretation of galaxy spectra depends increasingly upon models for very young stellar populations. Here we present new HST/COS ultraviolet spectroscopy of seven nearby (<120 Mpc) star-forming regions hosting very young stellar populations (∼4-20 Myr) with optical Wolf-Rayet stellar wind signatures, ideal laboratories in which to benchmark these stellar models. We detect nebular C iii] in all seven, but at equivalent widths uniformly <10 Å. This suggests that even for very young stellar populations, the highest equivalent width C iii] emission at ≥15 Å is reserved for inefficiently cooled gas at metallicities at or below that of the SMC. The spectra also reveal strong C iv P-Cygni profiles and broad He ii emission formed in the winds of massive stars, including some of the most prominent He ii stellar wind lines ever detected in integrated spectra. We find that the latest stellar population synthesis prescriptions with improved treatment of massive stars nearly reproduce the entire range of stellar He ii wind strengths observed here. However, we find that these models cannot simultaneously match the strongest wind features alongside the optical nebular line constraints. This discrepancy can be naturally explained by an overabundance of very massive stars produced by a high incidence of binary mass transfer and mergers occurring on short ≥10 Myr time-scales, suggesting these processes may be crucial for understanding systems dominated by young stars both nearby and in the early Universe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6112-6135
Number of pages24
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: stellar content
  • stars: massive
  • ultraviolet: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Ultraviolet spectra of extreme nearby star-forming regions: Evidence for an overabundance of very massive stars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this